Helping Parents and Caregivers Cope With the Mental Health Challenges of Parenting During a Pandemic
By Brittany Collins, Director of PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive and Mindy Binderman, Executive Director of GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students
As we enter 2021, one cannot help but reflect on what a tumultuous year 2020 has been, and how it has forced us to reimagine traditional ways of thinking and doing. GEEARS launched the PAACT initiative last year, and despite all of us had to overcome, we created new relationships and deepened existing ones as the importance of access to affordable child care, paid leave and child care supports, and equitable health care took center stage. PAACT also rallied to provide critical support to Atlanta’s families with young children, as well as the early childhood ecosystem that cares for them.
The past year has required us to have flexibility, empathy, and significant courage to make “good trouble” and to keep our eyes on our North Star – PAACT’s commitment to ensure that young children in Atlanta, regardless of income, race, or family background have equitable opportunity and access to thrive. We are reminded of the words of late Congressman Lewis, who said: “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”
Most recently, PAACT and its partners engaged parents and raised awareness of key early childhood issues by hosting virtual parent nights featuring some of Atlanta’s most engaged community-based leaders from CHRIS 180, Raising Expectations, Father’s Incorporated, and Atlanta Thrive.
With facilitation by CHRIS 180, a leader in behavioral health services for families in Metro Atlanta, parents in attendance heard from mental health professionals while also getting to share their experiences. Attendees were able to speak freely about the challenges they and their children faced in 2020.
We heard that many of Atlanta’s children are interacting increasingly more with technology and increasingly less with peers, and that challenging behaviors have escalated and are happening more frequently, potentially because their routine has been significantly altered. Parents also voiced concerns of their own mental health challenges impacting the mental health of their children.
The featured speaker Kathy Brown-Bragg, MSW, LCSW, MAC, Project Director of New Generation Infant Early Childhood Mental Health at CHRIS 180, shared strategies to main mental health for parents and caregivers. These include:
- Prioritizing self-care: Pay attention to your own mental and physical health. Be attentive to signals of stress, and seek support from friends, family, and mental health professionals BEFORE becoming overwhelmed.
- Making time for physical activity: This is a great way to reduce stress. Consider implementing regular exercise into your daily routine.
- Finding your tribe: Identify other parents, friends, family members or colleagues to talk to about your challenges. If you see someone who seems like they might be struggling, take a moment to check in with them. We are stronger together.
- Seeking assistance from a professional: CHRIS 180 provides trauma-informed care through the CHRIS Counseling Center offices. The counseling centers, with several locations in Metro Atlanta, assist people of all ages to improve and maintain a healthy mental state.
As we continue to navigate uncharted territory, we know that strong partnerships like the one we have formed with CHRIS 180 are even more critical than ever before.
We are inspired by the collective wisdom of all our partners, the PAACT advisory board, community-based organizations, funders, and most importantly, parents and caregivers of Atlanta that make up our community.
Smart investments in our children’s early years have a positive impact on the education, health, and economic well-being of all Atlantans. Together, we can ensure that our future leaders have the skills required to tackle the challenges and act on the opportunities of tomorrow inequitable opportunities, racial injustice, and the disproportionate impact of a global virus can be changed if we collectively commit to dismantle unjust systems.
Let us make 2021 the year we finally start making sustainable, positive social change for the most important voices in Atlanta: our youngest children.
PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive, is a citywide alliance led by GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, to improve outcomes for Atlanta’s children ages 0-to-5 years old.